The tabular outlines are the distillate of long-term studies in the analysis of the N.T. writings. It takes some time to become familiar with this presentation and all its implications. The following explanations may help.
The tabular presentation in general
The outline of the single books is arranged in two parallel tables:
- On the left the author’s table of contents, on the right his stichometrical disposition.
- The two parts are carefully inter-related; they corroborate each other mutually.
- Priority, however, is given to the table of contents, the stichometry is just a recalculation.
- That means that the outline cannot be based on stichometrical observations,
but it can be confirmed this way.
The different pages may help to envisage the whole of the book concerned:
- In smaller writings, page 1 provides the complete outline with all paragraphs.
- In larger writings, the table on page 1 gives an overview that can be placed on a single page.
- On p. 2, eventually 3-4, brief explanations follow, also on the shaping of paragraphs and text.
- Thereafter in larger writings, a complete table follows, listing each individual paragraph.
The table of contents
On the left, the sections are labeled according to the traditional and the systematic segmentation:
- far left: chapters and verses as in modern Bible editions, (irrelevant for the author’s disposition because introduced only in the 13th and 16th cent.);
- 2nd column: systematic structure with main parts, major parts, subsections and paragraphs;
- decimal numbering system: only one point after the main part (1st level), no point thereafter;
- zero parts: “0.” or “1.0” help to distinguish between short introductions and (main) parts.
The caesuras of the text are defined according to internal and formal signals:
- in narrative texts: at a scene change, i.e. a change of place, time and persons acting;
- in epistles/speeches: at a thematic change, a new address or another indication of a new thought.
- The parts of the same level should together constitute a unity, perhaps a concentric composition.
The headlines of the main parts / major parts / paragraphs should relate to each other, if possible:
- If first and last parts correspond to each other in some way, it is called a concentric composition.
- In a structure of five parts, the 2nd and 4th parts are often related, similarly in seven parts.
- Often the part in the center of a book or its sections contains also a central point in its contents.
- The subdivisions result in an uneven number of parts (3, 5 or 7) in almost all cases.
- According to Aristotle, freely adapted, a whole needs a middle.
The stichometrical table, including the Fibonacci sequence
The columns on the left list the results of counting stichoi with regard to the respective passages:
- first, the number of lines in the Greek New Testament (4th edition, 1993) for comparison;
- then the number of stichoi in the 15-syllables-standard (except Pastoral Epistles), in two forms:
at first rounded up, i.e. the last lines of a paragraph though incomplete are counted as full lines,
after that counted exactly, i.e. the remaining syllables of the last line are noted after the colon;
- finally the number of paragraphs that are added up in the respective sum of stichoi.
The columns on the right are distinguished according to numbers of the Fibonacci sequence:
- This is an old numerical sequence containing approximations to the golden ratio.
- It is named for the mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, (grand)son of Bonaccio (c. 1200).
- The sequence itself was already referred to by Nicomachus of Gerasa (2nd cent. AD).
- Each number of the sequence is the sum of the previous two: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 …
- The relation of two neighboring numbers is approximating the irrational value 0.6180339… :
see 2/3 = 0.666; 3/5 = 0.6; 5/8 = 0.625; 8/13 = 0.61538…; 13/21 = 0.61904…; 21/34 = 0.61764…
- The square of one of these numbers differs by ±1 from the product of the two next two numbers:
e.g. 5x5 = 25; 3x8 = 24; 2x13 = 26; or 8x8 = 64; 5x13 = 65; 3x21 = 63 etc.
The calculation of proportions is made on the basis of six numbers of the Fibonacci sequence:
- In the larger books (1000 or more stichoi) a modulus of 34 stichoi seems to be applied;
since 3x34 = 102, the sum of stichoi is easy to calculate: 48x34 = 3x16x34 = 1632 (Mk).
- In the smaller writings the modulus usually has a size of 21 or 13 stichoi.
- Components of 8, 5, and 3 stichoi are also used for subdividing the main parts into paragraphs.
- Paragraphs of 4 or 7 stichoi are relatively seldom; they are rendered by 8/2 and 8/2 + 3 stichoi.
- Only in very few cases the calculated target of stichoi is different from the result of the counting;
in these instances the target number of the last column is indicated by a different color.
The explanations on pages 2 and following
The explanations of the outline give an overview of the composition as a whole:
- The table of contents summarizes the table of p. 1 as needed for the stichometrical comparisons.
- An additional line (shown in bold) seeks to formulate the theme of the whole writing.
- The following text demonstrates the principal idea of the composition in general and in detail.
- Deviating delimitations of the main parts are briefly discussed, if necessary.
- An important concern are the correspondences in terms of concentric compositions.
The explanations of stichometry recapitulate the results of the stichoi counting:
- The table of the main parts gives an overview of the stichometrical disposition.
- The stichoi total of the whole book is expressed as the product out of a Fibonacci number.
- Brief comments following describe some of the implications and consequences.
- Observations on the main parts are followed by those on the smaller parts of a book.
The explanations of the paragraphing refer to the Greek New Testament for comparison:
- The deviations are listed if a paragraph is transposed, deleted or newly inserted.
- No reasons are given for these changes; they result from careful reflections on caesuras.
- Changes of the place and number of paragraphs may increase or reduce the number of lines.
- Thus it is possible almost always to adjust the number of counted stichoi to the calculated target.
The very few instances when a 16th syllable is tolerated at the end of a paragraph are noted:
- In these cases it is not possible to decide whether the author miscounted unintentionally,
- whether he surpassed the standard of 15 syllables consciously (tolerant rules provided),
- or whether the original text contained less syllables and was lengthened only secondarily.
- At any rate, the stichoi target is also realized by reducing the number of paragraphs.
The explanations of the textual version refer to deviations from the Greek New Testament as well:
- A textual variant is preferred over the GNT text only in a few exceptional instances.
- In almost all cases, the reason is a difference between the counted stichoi and the stichoi target.
- The text is shortened in most cases, very often by debated words, in square brackets in the GNT.
- The variations are always explained concisely by the usual criteria of textual criticism.
- The witnesses of the variants are briefly listed with the sigla of the Nestle-Aland27 apparatus
- Deviations from the punctuation of the GNT are hardly ever noted or explained.
Benefit for the interpretation
The stichometrical approach is helpful in uncovering the author’s intention:
- It is a way of trying to reconstruct the original disposition as intended by the author.
- It is often possible to show stichometrically where he brings out his main points,
esp. in concentric compositions or in the middle of a thematic unit.
- Apparently the authors wanted to meet aesthetic standards: good news written in good form.
- The results have a certain objectivity because they can be verified mathematically.
This approach, however, implies some assumptions that are not undisputed among exegetes:
- The authors of the NT are trained rhetorically and know to write sophisticated texts.
- When disposing and writing down their texts they applied the stichos as standard line.
- They also applied the Fibonacci numbers (the use of which in literature can only be deduced).
- Every line is formulated and even calculated carefully; nothing is adopted thoughtlessly.
- Therefore the synchronic approach has priority over against the diachronic one.
The stichometrical approach will gain additional plausibility with every ancient writing in which number of lines and proportions have been clearly derived from Fibonacci numbers.
- Schreiben nach Maß. Zur Stichometrie in der antiken Literatur (368 kB);
- Stichometry as a Useful Tool in Reconstructing the Original Dispositions. (9.6 MB)
- See also the literature to the single books.